CONCORD, N.H. (Oct. 18, 2016) – A New Hampshire representative plans to introduce four bills that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program during the 2017 session. If passed, these measures would further thwart federal prohibition in practice.
Rep. Joseph Lachance (R-Manchester) filed four separate draft requests (known as LSRs) for legislation relating to the state’s medical marijuana law. Each bill would add a new qualifying medical condition to the state’s program, expanding the pool of patients eligible to use medicinal cannabis. The four new conditions covered by the measures include opioid addiction, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The New Hampshire legislature passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services began pre-registering patients for medical marijuana ID cards in the fall of 2015, and the first dispensary opened last April. Allowing patients suffering from these four additional conditions to access medical marijuana would further accelerate the medicinal cannabis program in New Hampshire.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.
Of course, the federal government lacks any lawful authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
While state law does not alter federal law, it takes a step toward stopping in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing state prohibition, New Jersey essentially sweeps away part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
New Hampshire is among a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and more than 2-dozen states now allow cannabis for medical use. With half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically blocking the ban.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
This proposal to expand the state’s medical marijuana law also demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. Once the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These four bills to expand medical marijuana in New Hampshire represent another step forward for patients seeking alternative treatments and a further erosion of federal marijuana prohibition.